Episode #

"Operating in silos is not conducive to growth"

Strategies and structures to support business growth with Jake Higgins of Grwth Club

There's a science to growing a businesses that can be applied to any enterprise. What do companies with some of the fastest, continuous growth have in common? And what should business leaders be putting in place to enable their businesses to grow?

To get answers to these questions, host Sam Floy speaks to marketing and growth expert Jake Higgins. Jake is co-founder of Grwth Club, a business that matches start ups to the right agencies to enable their growth. Jake is also a Venture Partner at London-based firm Forward Partners, and a growth advisor to a number of businesses.  

If you've listened to the episode and would like to find out more, you can follow Jake on LinkedIn, check out his Substack page, or visit Grwth Club's website.

Jake is inspired by Nilan Peris, Chief Product Officer at Wise (formerly TransferWise).

If you are interested in learning more about business growth, Jake recommended reading:

Mom Test by Rob Fizpatrick,

The Competitive Strategy: techniques for analysing industries and competitors by Michael Porter,

Fundraising Field Guide by Carlos Espinal,

The Long and the Short of it: Balancing Short and Long-Term Marketing Strategies by Les Binet and Peter Field,

How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp,

And finally, his challenges to some of the established growth and marketing theory in The wrong and the short of it? by Jake Higgins.

Episode summary

In this conversation, Jake introduces Grwth Club and explains how they need to master multiple disciplines to succeed. They discuss the importance of cross-functional meetings, user testing, and qualitative research in driving growth. They also touch on the role of AI and the need to balance data-driven decisions with common sense. Jake shares his inspiration and book recommendations, including "The Long and Short of It" by Les Binet and Peter Fields.

Episode transcript

Sam Floy
Today's episode really gets to the hearts of Better Business Radar is all about growth. There's a science to business growth that I'm eager to get a deeper understanding of What do companies with some of the fastest, continuous growth have in common, and what should business leaders be putting in place to enable their businesses to grow? Well, in this episode, we're about to find out. This is Better Business Radar, a practical and dare we say inspiring podcast about smart ways to grow better businesses. I'm Sam Floy, the B2B entrepreneur and founder of Cofuition. The company behind this podcast, bringing you insights from interesting thinkers, viewers, and experts Today's guest is Jake Higgins, family partner growth club, a business that matches startups, best agencies support their growth. 

I've known Jake for 10 years and seen him continually sharpen his focus in marketing and his expertise in business growth. Today, he advises top brands on holistic approaches they can take to growing. To start the conversation, I asked Jake to introduce himself and grwth club 

Jake Higgins

Great to see you, Sam. So currently, I'm founding partner at Growth Club alongside my business partner, Joe Ben. At Grove Club, there's 2 different sizes of the business. On the 1 hand, there's agency matching, so that's matching start ups, scale ups. And to be honest these days, we have also some corporate and large charity clients as well, matching them with marketing agencies, whether that's SEO, performance marketing, all the way through to rebrands and creative campaign work everything you can imagine on the marketing side. And that's free to use. So there's no charge to the startup companies that we're referring there. The agencies are happy to pay us more commission because we're getting them leads that match their brief and, you know, ones they want to work on. And on the other side of the business, we help startups with fundraising. 

So, typically, around the series a, series b phase, some seed stuff as well. But typically, where businesses are raising money from institutional investors, and family offices. And I would say our kind of specialty is around off market capital like family offices and VC firms that don't market themselves and so on. And so we've been going for around a year now. On the startup agency side of the business, we matched around 40 50 businesses to various agencies. And then on the fundraising side, I think we've done 4 with another 2 big ones in the pipeline. So yeah, that's a little bit about what we do at growth club. And before that, I've been and still have an adviser to a bunch of scale up businesses all the way from consumer to fintech. 

Before that, I was the VP of growth that spoke, DTC Menswear company where I built the marketing or growth team there, which include all the way through to websites, data, and traditional marketing. And we raised a 9 minute pound series b in the summer of 2019. Before that, I was at a VC firm called Ford Partners, whereas head of growth doing what I kind of do today, but for their portfolio, still a venture partner there helping out on an ad hoc basis. And before that, I was their first employee and head of growth for today, Fintech company. That raised 20000000 from index and octopus and then sold to an American firm a couple months ago. And then before that, This is the bit where I end up worrying myself. 

I was in product and marketing roles both here and over in California where I lived for some while. So, yeah, all in all, been working in start up marketing for a while. We can get into what does growth mean as a concept, if you like. But, yeah, start up marketing and product and what people call growth is where I've been focused for last few years. 

Sam Floy

I mean, we've known each other for about must be about 10 years now since we did both of the New entrepreneurs Foundation course. And I I really feel you've always been marketing, you've always been growth, you've always like and my sense is you really hit your 10000 hours or whatever it is. To sort of, like, get to this level. Like, lots of people I know sort of bounce around a little bit, but I've really been impressed by how you just continued to refine and refine or may not refine, but just sort of really go all in on this. What what is it that sort of it initially and continues to interest you and excite you about. About marketing growth? 

Jake Higgins
I think it's the cross functional nature of it. And if we're going to get at the heart of what growth is. I think we should probably tackle that at the outset because it's a people define it in lots of different ways. So let me at least tell you how I see it. Potentially slightly controversial, but, you know, I I think not myself. So, you know, growth really, we have to look at it for a historical lens. Where the word came from. And it was really at a time when engineers were more involved in marketing departments kind of during and post the dot com boom. Where, you know, they would set up these websites and apps that would get quite large and would to approach marketing in a slightly different way. 

Rather than going off and buying a Super Bowl ad or whatever it might be. And also, was it a period where it was so easy through software to do a lot testing to spin up beta versions of stuff and so on, which again was quite unique in the history of commerce. So those 2 things I think, collided in fast growing businesses, especially marketplaces businesses coming out of Silicon Valley, Uber, Facebook, and so on. And such that those organizations started to realize that operating in silos is not conducive to growth. And so they started to have this new term, this new department, which was growth that would look at scaling challenges holistically. Rather than saying there's the marketing department over there. The product department over there is sales over there. Now, you know, different companies skin the cat in different ways. 

You know, Dropbox, for example, has historically had a very different growth team from, say, Uber and Facebook, and we can get into some of those differences. But broadly, it's about taking cross functional approaches to solving challenges. And I think that is at the heart of what I think growth is and to answer your question why I've been working in it and enjoying working in it is because there's that richness to the role. And there's a sense which you need to master quite a lot of disciplines. And so, you know, the kind of curiosity and learning curve is always there, which is enjoyable. And to kind of complete that narrative, but I do think and this is maybe the controversial thing, you know, growth marketing and maybe less so growth hacking, which is problematic for other reasons. 

But definitely growth marketing, I think, is more of a European word. I think it is the best rebrand of all time from digital marketing to growth marketing. And a lot of the time in Europe, when we talk about growth, we're not talking about it through that historical Silicon Valley lens. And in that way, actually, I think we lose a little bit of discipline about what is actually needed in the function or role, however you wanna describe it. And it is not just marketing. It is looking at things holistically. It is being as obsessed about the product as you are the marketing. And in the way if you look at, you know, my career, I've been formal product manager, as well as being a formal marketing manager. 

And I think that's what is is important and unique in terms of combining those in this concept of growth. 

Sam Floy

Did you find it's predominantly, you know, digital products or digital services that most often think of growth in this way, or does it also going to be into the sort of physical realm if that's the right way to describe it. 

Jake Higgins

Yeah. So that's really interesting and actually pertinent to So what I've worked on so, you know, I've worked, for example, in a physical consumer business. So Spoke was a direct consumer Menswear. Business, for example. So when I talk about product saying, at Spoke, I'm as obsessed in the website journey as I am the marketing But of course, I'm no garmin technician. And so, yeah, I think when it comes to DTC businesses, there is a slight limitation on what growth function conceptually can do because it can't iterate on the product at pace, you know, with rich qualitative feedback like you can if you're a Uber, a Facebook, or a b to b application or whatever it might be. But still, I believe you can apply the same principles of having cross functional teams. 

So when I was running the spoke team, for example, we always used to have cross functional meetings where, you know, the data person would be as welcome as the product person, as welcome as the marketing person, to contribute ideas to functions that are not traditionally in their remit as it were. So I think, you know, that is the main ethos. So this concept of cross functional teams solving commercial challenges is at the heart of what I think growth is. 

Sam Floy

Could you perhaps explain a growth commercial challenge that you overcame and sort of the input that different functions had on it? 

Jake Higgins

Okay. So you know, I don't want to, you know, names or or or single people out, but I think a lot of the time I whenever been in organizations or working with organizations come across against a lot of resistance or conservatism about taking bigger bets and actually about the possibility that things could be different that yeah. And And a good example of that is us working with an organization that were convinced that they had tapped out on a particular channel in this 1. It was it was Facebook a few years back. They were convinced that they had reached the maximum of what it's possible to do. 

And just by asking open questions by not looking at it just solely through the lens of bidding methodologies or whatever was the kind of tactic digital back then, but actually thinking about it holistically, doing customer development, understanding why people were abandoning carp making those changes through the website, making those changes in the marketing, opening up the funnel of the marketing program so that you had kind of different ads the top of funnel, different ads for the bottom of the funnel. Just by asking those questions actually and breaking through some of that conservatism I think by the end of it was like 3 x higher spend on Facebook and Instagram performance marketing than what they had at the outset. Because they were just looking at it through this very narrow lens of possibility. 

I think that, again, would not be achievable if you weren't taking a cross functional approach. If you weren't thinking, okay, first, I'm going to, you know, interview a bunch customers, prospects, people who abandoned car, and really understand why people aren't converting the limitations that the advertising has, The first thing I did is got my parents to run through the kind of onboarding experience. And that's always quite a good 1 because they're the last people to Well, maybe this is doing a bit of service, but, you know. 

Sam Floy

Not a typical user. 

Jake Higgins

They're not a typical user. They're not or savvy. So they were able to call out a lot of stuff just off the bat that, you know, wasn't optimal in the flow. And, you know, when you do that more systematically and you're by, you know, mom test principles, which is a great book if people haven't read it. Then, you know, things start to open up. You can you can start to understand what type of actions you might be able to take, and those actions may not be on the narrow remit that is your job you know, mister performance marketer, mis performance marketer, you know, whatever it might be. And that is, again, part of my resistance to the whole word growth marketing, is that it instantly puts you on 1 track of problem solving? 

And and that is not the original thesis that Silicon Valley invented, at all. And so, yeah, that's kind of a a broad example anyway that touches on some of themes that we've been speaking about. 

Sam Floy

Yeah. Great. And yeah. So it's it you know, the head of growth cares about the holistic. They care about everything, and so they naturally have this sort of broad agreement versus, you know, head of custom discovery, quote unquote just cares about, you know, getting most insights or the head of marketing to Interesting. So, Jake, I I think 1 thing which I'm sort of curious to get your thought on is, like, at what stage does a company perhaps need to formalize this growth role? Is it something typically you're seeing good companies are doing almost from the outset? They have this sort of dedicated growth division. Or or is it something that typically comes a bit later? And let's maybe use the example of a fairly standard b to b SaaS company? 

Jake Higgins

It really does depend. So, for example, if we're gonna go back to those companies that I mentioned before, say, Uber and Facebook versus Dropbox. You know, those are all big companies and all do this very differently. So for example, at Uber and Facebook. Historically, the growth team and Facebook has changed a bit now, but the growth team was a separate team from the marketing team and a separate team from the product team. A good example of Uber that was told to me by the ex GM of Uber. He said that they weren't growing as fast india. So they sent a growth team out there. The growth team did customer development interviews with the taxi drivers out there and found out that People just weren't comfortable paying on card in the same way culturally. They're much more comfortable paying with change. 

So they re architected a version of the app that worked with change. You know, this is pre pandemic, waiting, this is years and years ago now. And the app just, you know, flew, solved their growth problems And so they were using the growth team as, like, a kind of SAS team deployed to solve particular challenges. 

Sam Floy

Squad team. 

Jake Higgins

Yeah. They were separate from the core product team and the core marketing team. And, you know, if you look at that squad that they sent, there was a marketer, a copywriter, a designer, a product manager, an engineer, you know. So they had this kind of cross functional team that can be deployed in that way. Someone like Dropbox, again, you know, things might have changed these days, but historically, their growth and product teams were combined. And they had a a growth team on each particular metric in the activation funnel. So, you know, onboarding had its own mini growth team with a product manager a copywriter or designer or have you know, the checkout funnel or whatever. So, you know, you can imagine each different part of this funnel has its own cross functional growth scene. 

Again, because of the realization that the more that these functions are siloed, the weaker you grow. And also, you know, a big part of Dropbox strategy was their referral mechanic due to the nature of their product where, you know, if you refer to friends, you got x amount of free space and what have you. So, of course, you can see why they wanted to tie the growth function intimately into the funnel and into those into that product experience. But it's so even in those 2 big companies and, you know, arguably, it's these kind of tech giants that created this function of growth. They've got very different ways of thinking about it. So the I think the first thing any business should understand is that they can create a function and a way of working, that works for them. 

You know, there's no right thing, there's no big thing that they're missing out of, some shiny object that you know, everyone else is doing better than them. You know, again, ultimately, what we're talking about is jargon. You know? What is way more important is the mindset. How close is your product team and your marketing team? Are they siloed away from each other? And there's is there a bit of infighting, whatever it may be? So really, you can keep calling it product over there, marketing over there. But if they're so close that they're working in lockstep and perhaps reporting to the same person, they are effectively a growth team. It doesn't matter if you use that phrase or not. So again, there's just many different ways of skinning this particular cat. It depends on the people you've got in your organization. 

Now Maybe you've got a product leader who's very marketing minded. Right? And actually has a fantastic relationship with the people working in marketing. You know, in this sense, would it make sense to bring in someone who's got a big capital g growth experience from an outside firm? To run a new division called growth. No. That would be a terrible thing to do because you already have the real premise of what growth is, which is cross functional teams, working together to solve problems, and often the tools they're using is a rapid experimentation. So again, you know, those and that's something else we could touch on. But again, if it doesn't matter what you call it, the most important thing is those ingredients. 

Sam Floy

And so and they it's typically these types of people that are coming to growth club. They've they've got the mindset of we know that we need to have different ingredients in our growth recipe. 

Jake Higgins

So growth club was founded based on my own experience and the experience of my cofounder, Joe Ben, which is that so much of your success as an organization is ends up being outsourced to these external partners, whether that's running your marketing or, you know, designing the brand's strategic direction, maybe even writing your own communication headlines and sub copy and all the rest of it. Now, of course, if you're in a small organization, you're not gonna go and use agencies in that way. That we normally deal with organizations that are slightly larger. So series a, series b, series c is our sweet spot. Of of the kind of companies that we work with because they're the kind of companies where agencies make sense, where having someone come in, for example, and give you an external view on your brand, on your communications hierarchy. 

And to challenge you on those things constructively makes a lot of sense. So, yes, at growth club, we tend to work with organizations that are later stage in that way. And what we don't do is provide the frameworks or become your growth team or any or anything like that. What we're set up to do is to support growth teams, is to support marketing teams when it comes to the arduous and risky process of selecting partners. And, yeah, as I said at the outset, for me, I experienced that. My team taking up so much time doing a parade of different agencies, asking VCs and everyone, you know, for recommendations and someone recommends their nephews agency. Someone heard that someone had a good project with 1 agency. 

But the reality is that just because someone had a good a project with someone else does not mean that you're gonna have a good project with them because so much depends on chemistry, so much depends on that nuance of the brief and so on. So growth club was founded on the vision that at least the agency side of it is that someone wakes up 1 day. They wanna test TikTok as a channel. Or they wanna test podcasts as a channel or, you know, let's just use this as an example. They wake up 1 day and they could literally go to us submit the brief on the website. Once the brief's locked down within 24 hours, they could be speaking to the 4 best people to solve that particular challenge for them the next day. And they're off to the races. 

And that is a major a major help to so many big businesses we work with. And I know I wish that this existed when I was running marketing, you know, running big budgets and all the rest of it. And a new channel is a good example because more than ever, businesses are well, more than ever, I say it's this has always been the perennial situation for start up markets. But, you know, People are really looking at these new channels whether it is TikTok, podcast, and all the rest of it because if you can get ahead of others, if you can get to a new channel and come up with a new tactic or a new strategy that outperforms what other people are doing, then you can get a nonlinear result. 

And it is nonlinear results which is what we're in the game for. You know, if we're just managing the status quo, then what we can expect is the status quo kind of linear growth. So, yeah, it it growth club itself does not structure your marketing team and growth team. It does not come into your organization and do any sort of consulting or stuff like that. It is a a service for when you're looking to do something new to get a nonlinear result, and it's about matching you with the partners that can do that at pace. 

Sam Floy

Interesting. Have you have you been seeing any transpads in the last 6 months compared to maybe your sense of how things were in the months and years before in terms the types of requests you're getting or things that are coming up which are maybe surprising you a little bit? 

Jake Higgins

In terms of non surprising trends. I'll start by not answering your question directly, and I'll answer the question you didn't answer. On the b to b side, of course, in this contraction of the market and with the uncertainty around AI, you know, replacing many of the traditional SaaS models. We're seeing a move from demand gen to lead gen, which is b to b marketing jargon, which basically means you know, I'm sure you and your listeners know, but, you know, it means basically generating demand through very targeted brand activity as you will, LinkedIn ads, or even other forms of advertising versus, you know, lead generation which is more like lower than the funnel you know, generating leads with people who are much more ready to buy in terms of that intent curve. 

And so, you know, you're seeing people pull away from that more top of funnel b to b marketing spend. That's what we're seeing. Like, if you look at our data in terms of the requests for agencies and a lot more on the sharper end, Whether that is a smart thing to do for the long term is another question, but definitely not surprising 1 bit given their macroeconomic picture. In terms of surprising things, we're seeing I think we're seeing a trend for you know, on the consumer side, definitely a trend of creative agencies taking over more of the pie. So creative agencies are more and more involved with generating PR ideas, PR stunts, and more they're looking at campaigns holistically. 

So thinking as much about the out of home activation or a particular digital ad, whatever it might be, and thinking about how it exists in the whole campaign, thinking about how the whole campaign can work harder. By looping together and linking together different channels. So I think that is is interesting. And I think PR firms at this moment are desperately trying to understand how they can not just be distribution. So I think that's really interesting as in just sending our press releases because of course if they do end up just being that, then their value is slightly less. We're seeing across b to b and b to c a much faster move into internationalization. 

So having conversations with companies about the US much earlier than has been traditional, Europe the same, even China for more consumer businesses, the Chinese market is coming up in a way that it hasn't previously ever been part of the conversation. And again, that's people hunting value out of, you know, if they can find the early adopters in those other territories. Then they can get some kind of efficient marketing spend out the door in this difficult macro and economic climate. We're seeing performance marketing agencies having to turn the tanker around and become creative agencies themselves as a lot of performance marketing channels are now much more broad in their targeting. And therefore, it's the different very bold creative test that allow the algorithm to target on your behalf. So that's a bit of a a scramble at the moment there. 

It's it's an interesting 1 because many performance marketing agencies aren't set up like a creative agency. You know, there's no bean bags in the corner and, you know, wacky brainstorms or whatever it might be. That's maybe a bad fit a creative agencies, sir. But the sentiments there, culturally, it's very different at performance marketing or a media buying agency versus a creative agency. So they're trying to solve that challenge at the moment so that they can get more of the pie. Yeah. So I I would say it's a period where overall map economic picture has put a downward pressure on advertising budget. And therefore, a lot of agencies are trying to kind of broaden their services or increase the amount of revenue streams play in different places where they perhaps didn't traditionally play. 

Sam Floy

Same. Well, I think the other thing which should be remiss to mention is is what's your opinion on chat GPT and how this fits into everything? I think you're talking a lot about the need for creativity and then out the last few months has popped this tool which sort offers the ability or claims for the ability to have creativity on tap. 

Jake Higgins

Yes. Yeah. Big topic. I mean, III do believe that it is a big platform for the future, and I do think a lot of b to b SaaS businesses will be disrupted due to it. I also think that a lot of creative agencies will be disrupted especially the middle layer of work. So so more functional graphic design work without getting into kind technical thing. So I think there's still obviously gonna be a place for the deep creative thinking that creative agencies are paid for. But some of that functional graphic design work may over time be taken by these kind of tools. You know, you only have to look at runway AI and see it making a feature film out of prompts, you know, to see the direction of travel there. 

I think, like, with most of these technological for innovations, it takes longer than we think. So, you know, I'll say chat GPTI think, to get the last 2 percent of accuracy. Is gonna take maybe 5 to 10 more years. And I think its value becomes a lot more once that accuracy is there. Because Jack GGP is kind of a little bit of a parlor trick in terms of it. What it does is it just predicts the next word. We're definitely interested in it and are looking for ways that we can support AI businesses with qualitative feedback from our agency network. So that's something that we're pulling together in the background at the moment. And, yeah, really excited about that. 

I think on the b to b SAS side of things, of course, there's so many different ways in which this kind of generative AI or other types of AI will impact SaaS business models. Exactly how isn't too clear right now. And exactly whether there will be value creation at the venture scale for tools that sit on top of chat GPT and sit on top of these different large language model APIs or whether it will just be a monopoly or oligopy of these LMM's large language models where all the value creation is done. And so it just might all consolidate around the big tech firms, you know, Microsoft have already made massive investments into open AI and all the rest of it. So I think that's still to be figured out. 

Sam Floy

Better Business Radar is a podcast made by us the team at Cofurition We offer an all in 1 solution for high value service companies looking for a simple and effective way to grow. A lot of businesses don't need Facebook ads or trip funnel campaigns, they need to have a systematic way to demonstrate your leadership, expand their network, and have the consistent high quality content to stay on people radar. This is what we offer with our fully managed company podcast. If you're interested in hiring us for your business, then head to co fruition dot com forward slash BER, where you can learn more and get 10 percent off the setup of your show. The link is also in the episode description. Now, back to the episode. You'll you'll also work as a growth adviser. 

How the sort of questions or the advice that you've been giving? How has that been evolving? 

Jake Higgins

I think the macroeconomic picture has been significant. We've had, you know, a a 10 year period of people coming into work taking roles in startups instead of the traditional finance and other industries, really smart people coming into startups working in either product management or marketing or what have you in the commercial side of startups who have been used to a period of low interest rates where there's lots of capital And I think that's 1 thing I noticed as when I graduated and came into this world, a lot of the people that are newer to it feel like, of course, their organization has a right to exist. Of course, we'll be around to raise another round and so on. 

Whereas, you know, I'm much more used to this kind of or at least was forged in the wartime scenario where you had no right to exist tomorrow. You know and that really sharpens your focus on making big bets and ruthless prioritizing. I've been really trying to put the fire in the bellies of a lot of people working in products, marketing, and growth. And getting them to adopt that all time fitting as it were because right now it is harder to raise arguably than it has been in the past. There's a lot of dry powder and there's more funds than there ever was. But it's not being deployed at the same pace. The other thing that I'm talking about and to be honest, I talk about this all the time. It's just about the importance of qualitative data. And doing qualitative research. 

I think I've mentioned it already. There's a book called the mum test that I'm big fan of. It's a short primer. You can read it on a train ride. In terms of how to ask nonbiased customer interviews and get really good data to either validate or invalidate your assumptions. Because, of course, a test does not mean necessarily having to push product live, you know, to that point about making big bets but not sucking up resources. Well, you can do a lot of validation through, you know, showing someone a prototype in a controlled user testing scenario. So, yeah, I think it's as ever important to really get the heart of your product, and qualitative testing is a it's crucial for that to validate your assumptions. And to understand do I have a mass market product? 

Sam Floy

Really interested in this sort of wartime mentality -- Mhmm. -- that you're talking about. So the fact that you say big bets makes me feel like despite it being wartime, you should still be having that that Big mentality as opposed to, okay, we need to sort of retract into our shelves and we need to sort of, you know, hunker down, etcetera. Did what are some sort of rules of thumb that you you find it good. 

Jake Higgins

Well, look, of course, I know, you know, some people might be in a particularly difficult scenario where consolidating around your poor revenue stream or, you know, unfortunately having to let people go and so on. I understand that's a reality Assuming you're not in retreat, let's say. I think, yes, you can make big bets with relative confidence as long as you've done the qualitative user testing beforehand. So for example, scaling spend is I often think about it like taking an exam. And you can actually get the answers to the exam before the test by just asking people, that is how good a hack speaking to prospects speaking to people who haven't heard of the product and doing user testing, speaking to current customers in order to validate or invalidate your assumptions. 

So use that as the test bed to initially flush out your big bets, get inspired around your big bets. And then when you come to deploying them well, look, if you're working in a b to b software context, you know, you got the Best possible scenario there compared to say a physical retail business because you can iterate quickly and you can iterate without vetting the fun. 

Sam Floy

It's great it's a great reminder isn't it of, yeah, you can just ask for the answers. I think 1 of the examples I remember hearing years ago was the He's the founder of Zapos. The idea of selling shoes on mine was, like, quiet revolution concept. And, yeah, rather than buy a bunch of shoes, build a website And, you know, suddenly, he's had to spend 50 grand on a bunch of shoes. He just went to a shoe shop, took loads of pictures, put on the web And if anyone bought them, he just walks to the shoe shop bought them and put them in the post. And that was his way of of validating. Is there actually this idea. And what I think is quite nice is when you're starting a company, you often have that sort of slightly get more nimble. 

How can we experiment and do things on the on the cheap mindset. And then once you, yeah, start having revenue and employees and things, you can sort of say, okay. We've passed that phase. But it's quite nice hearing you talk about. You can always have that mode. Like, even if you've got an office and a website, like, you're an established company, you can still go out and talk to your customers, say, oh, yeah. We're thinking of this for like well, yeah. Tell me about that. Yeah. Tell me about what your pain points are here, etcetera. And like the fact that you necessarily need permission, but sometimes it's good to remember that that you can do those things. 

Jake Higgins

Hundred percent. And and the key is being able to do that in a nonbiased way in a scientific way. And that's why if anyone's asking in their heads right now, how do you do that? The mum test about MOM test is a great primer. 

Sam Floy

Yeah. Have you have you been doing this with growth club? Have you been long testing yourself? 

Jake Higgins

It's really funny, actually, because, you know, I've been banging on about unbiased qualitative data for a while. And I remember I always used to say to people that it doesn't often float to the top of your to do list because psychologically, people don't like talking to strangers and they don't like hearing all the bad news about their business. And I also used to say, you know, some founders also, in particular, are a bit sensitive about hearing this so called bad news about their product or marketing. And because, you know, obviously, I founded Grove Club and it was a little like my baby, I remember when we first launched the site and various bits of feedback were coming in as our eye for the first time felt those pangs I said, oh, I don't wanna hear this. I don't wanna hear this. 

You know, I I was so resistant myself in going and doing the kind of nonbiased feedback keys, but no, we did do it on the website and it made the website stronger for it. The first version of the website people would go through it and do user testing with them and they wouldn't be able to, at the end, coherently describe what we did. So, yeah, I I sharpened up all the messaging based on biased user testing. Yeah. 

Sam Floy

And how do you Did you just find people in your network? Did you yeah. How how do you actually get in front of these people that would be good to give you feedback? 

Jake Higgins

Yeah. So then the normal tip I give people is to, you know, these days create a WhatsApp message that can get forwarded on. Ask people for a you know, for 5 minutes of their time, 10 minutes of their time for a 20 pound Amazon voucher. And make sure that they're in the target market, but they don't know who you are or they've never heard of your business. Send that out. And, you know, within a few forwards, you've got about 10 people that are willing to give you a bit of their time for their Amazon voucher. 

You'll be surprised how open people are to giving feedback to entrepreneurs, you know, people really wanna support and help entrepreneurs and especially if you're giving them a nominal 20 pound voucher or something like that, it makes them feel like this is a transaction which is like valuing my time. And also, it just makes it feel more serious. As well. It makes it feel more proper that you're not gonna get on the call and have someone wasting your time. So I encourage people to do that. I encourage them to sit down next to the person physical or virtual get them to land on a piece of advertising, land on the website, ask them to go through and make a transaction. In growth club's case, go through and submit something on the form. 

And then I sit next to them and I ask them to speak out loud about their experience and speak out loud about what they're understanding and what they're not understanding. So you need to have the discipline at this point to lock correct them when they get something wrong, when they're rage clicking in the wrong place. When they're, you know, not understanding something that you thought was perfectly clear, you just got to sit there and just listen in silence, writing down notes, You don't have to do that with many people for you to just finally get out of your own head and realize where you're going wrong. You know, it it would come so painstakingly obvious even after 5 to 10 of these. 

So that's for people that's for that kind of analyzing top of funnel for understanding what people actually think when they get to your site. The second piece is people who churn or people who abandon car interviewing them again, plain text email to them from the founder saying, hey, at company x y zed, we strive for excellence save the world, whatever it might be, please, could you know, either do an interview for 05:10 minutes from Amazon voucher? Importantly, don't incentivize them with your own product discount or whatever, which is a mistake a lot of people make. And get on the call with them or you can set that as an always on email. And just say, hit reply to this email and let us know why you didn't purchase or why you churned or whatever. 

And then you've just got a constant pipeline of the reasons why people didn't buy your product. Or didn't continue to buy your products. If there's anything that I think demarcates a real growth team, in the classical Silicon Valley sense, it is this. It is really understanding the reasons why people stop buying your product or don't buy in the first place and being able to spit out into various demographics. So those are the 2 2 most important buckets, the third 1 being your existing customers. But the danger there is that it's a bit of an echo chamber, so you have to be kinda careful and nuanced about how you take on that information. 

Sam Floy

There was someone else you said. 1 of the most interesting customer insights they found was the most recent cohort of people who became customers and then saying, what was it that nearly made him not become a customer? 

Jake Higgins

Yeah. That's a really good way of doing it. I think even better, though, if you can actually speak to the people who didn't go ahead and purchase because The idea here is that we hunt for all the bad news. Yeah. If we can process that, if we can deal with it, then it's like a law of gravity, it's like nature, conversion rate should go up. Now, of course, this happens a lot in a b testing or it can happen with quality of customer interviews, whatever it is. Don't let the cart lead the horse. You know, what you don't wanna end up doing by speaking to all these people who, you know, abandoned car or churn or something like that, you start optimizing your product for a whole customer segment that were never really your target customer segment anyway. Right? 

So you got to have some common sense whether it's AB testing, whether it's qualitative testing, always apply common sense override. 

Sam Floy

Excellent. We've spoken a lot about, you know, opportunities trends, future, etcetera. What is something that's sort of on your Yeah. The the next sort of 3 to 6 months was something that you're sort of particularly excited about in the sort of growth world, should we say? 

Jake Higgins

I think in terms of newness, I think the AI piece is significant. I think new channels like TikTok are significant because TikTok flipped the script in terms of creating an algorithm for which you did not need to follow other people in order to kind of get massive exposure. And so it was the first algorithm which was a more purest meritocracy. And again, that's underpinned by AI. And so I I do think that has materially change the future of social media. And I you know, probably TikTok will be shut down in America, but there'll be new forms a bit emerging. And I think it will create new ways for people to buy things, to explore content, and so on. Those are quite ethereal hard to get your head around pieces of kind of new technology. 

I think there's always in this game, so many shiny objects in the distance. But the thing that actually gets me excited to answer your question directly is when people go back to basics, you know, and realize that To do growth right is like being a boring lab scientist. And actually my first job was as a lab technician in Saint George's Hospital in South London, and it was really boring. It was really boring to do those scientific experiments correctly, you had to do the same thing over and over again. And that's actually what gets me excited when I see teams having that discipline. Because there'll always gonna be shiny objects in the distance and there's always gonna be things that are changing, but the processes never change. 

Sam Floy

Excellent. Okay. Well, let's finish on a couple of questions. Quick 5 ones. Who is somebody that inspires you? 

Jake Higgins

I think I've always really been interested in how transferwise operate as a business. Because they've taken this concept of cross functional teams and taken it to the next level. So as I understand it, they have a very flat management structure. And the team is orientated around different growth pods. To the extent that I heard even that the HR team has a growth across functional team with a particular metric and all the rest of it. And I think that's a great example for me. And I think Nillan was the VP of growth. He's probably chief something officer these days. But I think he is someone who's taken the fundamentals of what growth is, I. E. This kind of cross functional hypothesis driven approach to solving commercial challenges. And basically pushed it across the whole organization without getting hung up on semantics. 

Sam Floy

Excellent. And What is an invaluable book resource podcast something that people should read to get a good introduction to the world of growth. And we've already got the mom test on bookshelf so you can't have that 1. 

Jake Higgins

I would encourage people to go back to basics because really growth as a concept is about business fundamentals. So I think to that aim, competitive strategy is a great book worth reading to understand kind of like NBA style knowledge around how different markets work when different competitors move in and so on. I think Carlos from CECAMP fundraising field guide is really good for people that are new to understanding fundraising rounds and how that stuff works. I've written an article that disagrees with a lot of what I'm about to say or at least clarifies it for startups called the wrong and the short of it. But there's 2 seminal pieces of marketing academic research. 1 is the long of a short of it by Lesbinet and Peter Fields. 

So I'd encourage people to read that and then read my article which kind of contradicts it in many ways, and they can decide who they think's right. And then the other book is how brands grow byron Shop, which is a a famous marketing academic book, again, in that same article, I contradict a few things in the book or reframe them for startups. 

Sam Floy

Yep. Fantastic. And where can people learn more about you and growth club? 

Jake Higgins

Yeah. So LinkedIn is probably the only platform that I use personally really where I try and do most of the kind of value add thinking is on my sub stack page. So people can go and check that out, sub stack dot higgins. And yeah, that's why I could write a lot of long form essays about growth. If you go back to the first 1 which spurts into our conversation, I I talk about what growth is and touch in a bit more detail on some of the topics we've spoken about today, about the history of Silicon Valley, and so I'm. 

Sam Floy

Fantastic. Cool. Well, thanks so much, Jake. That's it's been great. 

Jake Higgins

No problem. Great to see you again, Sam, and wish you all the best. 

Sam Floy

Thank you for joining me for this episode of Better Business Radar. Been great speaking with Jake about how to grow a business. If you'd like to find out more about Jake Higgins, and growth club, visit growth dot co dot uk, that's GRWTH, dot co dot uk, very trendy. So not have that o. You can also follow Jake on LinkedIn and get more of the insights on growth by his sub stack page. The links are in the episode description. If you enjoyed this episode and would like more insights from leading thinkers and doers who can help you be smart in growing your business. Please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Sam Floy. This has been Better Business Radar. See you next time. 

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